Tag Archives: food

Good Eatin’: My Carbonara

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

I enjoy cooking for friends. So when I had a friend staying around who loved pasta I knew that I had to make my carbonara. I usually make it with turkey bacon but I figured I would try and milk it for some more food list items so went for more regular smoked back bacon. One day I hope to make this with guanciale as is traditional.

Food Item: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Oak-Smoked Bacon, Durum Wheat Spaghetti

Ingredients (serves 3):

  • 250g dried spaghetti
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 4 tbsp white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved
  • 15g low-fat spread (preferably olive oil based)
  • 6 slices smoked bacon, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • low-fat oil spray

Firstly mix the egg yolks together with the parmesan and set aside. Then heat a few sprays in a large frying pan (or wok) and cook the garlic halves for 2-3 minutes, just don’t let them burn. Then add the bacon pieces and cook them for 5 minutes, continually stirring them so (again) they don’t burn. Then add the wine, stir it in and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the wine has fully evaporated. Then take the bacon off the heat and set aside.

Cook the spaghetti as per instructions then strain (keeping a mug of the water) and then add the spaghetti to the bacon mix and toss. Follow this with the butter and cheese mix. If the sauce is a little bit dry then add some of the discarded pasta water.

This is one of my favourite things that I make so I am surprised that I haven’t made it for months… I won’t be making that mistake again. I know I am biased but I don’t think you can beat bacon from Europe. Especially the smoked variety. Sorry America but it’s true, your bacon sucks.

Progress: 90/500

Good Eatin’: Crumpets, Marmite and Broccoli

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Don’t worry I didn’t eat them together. This just happened to be some of the 1001 food list items that I ate in one day in separate meals. I can’t imagine that they would all taste good together.

Food Item: Crumpets and Yeast Extract

It’s in the list as “yeast extract” but it’s probably only because they didn’t want to include brand name in the book… but it so clearly is a reference to Marmite. Luckily when it comes to the whole “love it or hate it” thing I am clearly on the love side. In fact thanks to eating it for the blog I have gotten right back into this, even taking cheese and Marmite sandwiches into work. I actually remember taking a jar of Marmite into a cinema with a spoon when I was trying to lose weight. It may be black and salty but it is VERY low in fat.

Marmite is perfectly paired with crumpets. The spongy nature of the crumpet means that as the butter melts on top it sinks through and flavours the whole thing; now imagine this as a butter-Marmite mixture. There really are not many better ways to start out the day.

Food Item: Purple Sprouting Broccoli

This picture is with the cider vinegar and Dijon mustard because originally this meal was going to count for three. I made a pork joint with the vinegar and mustard being used in a glaze alongside soy sauce and honey. Thing is, you couldn’t taste them… so it didn’t count. Which means that I spent my a lot of evening chipping burnt glaze off the bottom of my roasting tin.

As for the broccoli, I had been ordering it from my online shop for weeks only to have it substituted again and again. Good thing there is a Little Waitrose in the high street. To cook it I firstly blanched the florets for a few minutes and then I immediately stir-fried it in Korean chilli paste and garlic. The end result was meaty (which shows I have underestimated broccoli yet again) and spicy. A good thing I enjoy experimenting frying things with certain other things.

Progress: 87/500

Good Eatin’: Catching Up On Some Fish

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

The quest to match percentages across the different sections of the food list is a bit stupid, I know, but I know that if given the choice I would probably just spend most of my 500 eating baked goods and sweets.

Once again, I focussed on fish and tried two new ones in the week. For one of them I cooked it properly myself… the other I got it frozen.

Food Item: Cod and Pine Nuts

I am in two minds about eating cod. It’s delicious but the fishing practices surrounding cod can be a bit sketchy. I have actually had cod plenty of times before since I am British and not adverse to some fish and chips.

Instead of popping down the local chippy I thought it would be better if I tried to cook it myself. So I followed a recipe here for sablefish with pine nuts and just used cod instead. The whole thing tasted like a pasta-less puttanesca with a lot of toasted pint nuts. Hot, fishy and delicious. The toasted pine nuts on top are a nice touch, I prefer them on salads or pizza though.


Food Item: Lemon Sole, Polenta and Parsnips

Sometimes you just want an easy meal after getting home from work. Prepared lemon sole from Tesco in a seeded crust, honey-glazed parsnips, pre-made polenta block that can easily be glazed in gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and grilled.

Food Item: Tartare Sauce

I know I can not plate a meal so it looks good on camera for the life of me but trust me this was delicious, especially with some tartare sauce on the side. As a whole meal this worked really well. The sweetness of the parsnips worked well against the spicy glaze I gave the polenta chips. The best part, however, was the fish. Not only the taste of the fish but also the crispy crust. I may have to buy that again.

Progress: 84/500

Good Eatin’: Feelin’ Fruity

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Since I have started reading the book before bed (I am currently in the middle of the fish section) I have begun to recognise food items that appear on the list without having to consult my phone. Considering how the book is arranged this means fruit have had a big advantage since they are the first chapter. They are also the section I am most interested in (other than the sweets obviously).

Food Item: Watermelon

Now if I had had my wherewithal this would have been part of a larger post about Korean food but I didn’t quite realise what I was eating was kimchi. This means no photo and no photo means I don’t consider it food canon, which is fine since I don’t mind eating kimchi again.

We went to a Korean place as part of a work lunch with a group of friends in the department. Whilst I have cooked food that has been described as Korean I have never actually been to a Korean restaurant and had it done “properly”.  Apart from a rather annoyed waiter it was a a really enjoyable lunch with great company. It also meant that I got to try my first ever watermelon slice; something that shocked other people. Thing is, I have had other melons before and not been a fan but this was sweet and refreshing. Maybe I’ll have to give melon a go again.

Food Item: Loquat

After my Banana Tree treat we dropped into Chinatown on the way home just to see if there was anything of interest. This meant that I was able to pick up some new fruit and use my Fortune Cat loyalty card for the first time (much to the bemused surprise of the cashier… must be one of the few white guys they’ve seen use it or something).

Apprently there is a debate whether to eat loquats them with the skin on or off so I chose to go skinless by biting and peeling. Not too sure what to think of these since there was such a variation in flavour between the three that I ate. The first was fairly watery and nondescript, the third had some flavour but aired on the side of sour and the middle one was deliciously sweet. So really… I don’t know.

Food Item: Muscat Grape

Waitrose had THE cherries I need for this list. But I could not justify buying a punnet of cherries for £5. Then I saw a small pack of one of THE grapes for under £1.50. Seemed like a good compromise to me.

Oh my god if these aren’t the best grapes that I have ever had. I was reluctant to share these since they were just so sweet. The comparison is made a lot in such food lists but think of a lychee and now cross it with a regular grape. Each bite was just a honeyed explosion and I am now probably ruined in terms of getting a normal bunch of grapes from the supermarket. So thanks a lot muscat grapes!

Progress: 78/500

Good Eatin’: A Trip To Banana Tree

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

When I celebrate my first pay check I treat my partner to a Chinese buffet. When he got good work news I managed to swing a trip to Banana Tree; an Indonesian restaurant near where both of us work.

The purpose of this visit was to celebrate and have a nice time. The fact that I was able to tick off a large number of food list items just made this amazing dinner even better (and believe me this is the best meal I have had out in a long time)

Food Item: Lychee

When we went there it was their happy “hour” so the offer was to get two of the same drinks for the price of one. Now, since a lot of the fruit I have been eating lately are tropical and taste a “bit like” lychee I figured I would have a Virgin Lychee Mojito. Very sweet and it comes with two whole lychee bobbing up and down in the glass like peeled eyeballs. It took me ages to finally fish them out.

Food Item: Coriander Leaf

For the starters (that we shared) we had an order of crispy dough with satay sauce (the satay sauce itself was just nosh) but pictured here is my pick which was the Kau Chi dumplings.  I am a sucker for East Asian dumplings and these were covered with a good layer of spring onions and coriander. These pork and prawn dumplings in vinegar disappeared quickly.

Food Item: Tilapia, Tamarind, Beansprouts, Jasmine Rice,  Fen Si Noodles

Now here is where I am cheeky. This is my partner’s meal. We ordered everything before I thought of the blog, it was only when we got the drink I suddenly twigged that I could have probably got a large number of food items here. We both ordered our meal with the “Banana Tree Special Combo” which meant portions of jasmine rice, sweetcorn cakes, crackers and glass noodle (what most Brits know Fen Si noodles as) salad.

Where I had the chicken with mango and sweet lime (which I would easily have again) my partner went for the tilapia with a tamarind sauce. We swapped about half of our mains over since they were both delicious. The sweet and tart tamarind is always welcome in an East Asian dish but I have never had it with fish before, and it worked really well. This white fish was lean, with a slightly meaty texture (I really need to re-evaluate my stance on fish as I am liking more than I would have first thought).

The whole meal was delicious and filling. I mean, I am someone who retches when I smell sweetcorn being cooked and yet I thought the sweetcorn cakes were really nice. We were nicely satisfied… until they waved the dessert menu under our noses that is.

Food Item: Purple Rice

On the menu it was listed as  a Balinese rice pudding made with black rice and topped with coconut ice cream. It looked more purple so I looked it up and found that the rice  in this pudding is a variety of purple rice. I never actually expected to get purple rice so quickly since it felt incredibly out of the ordinary.

To eat this I kept spooning my hot rice pudding over the ice cream until it melted and mixed in. It made it the colour of Ribena and tasted rich and sweet.

Needless to say, I went here a few weeks before writing this… and yesterday I went here with a colleague from work for lunch. I think I have new favourite restaurant.

Progress: 75/500

Good Eatin’: The Meal ASDA Didn’t Want Me To Have

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Okay, I need to explain the title since this is not just a random pot-shot at ASDA this is venting after some bad ASDA experience.

Since we moved into our own place we have been ordering our groceries from ASDA (like I did when I was at university). This is not only because they are on the cheaper end of the spectrum but of all the online food shopping sites they tend to be the ones with the most offers on two litre bottles of Pepsi Max.

So, what happened this time? Well firstly I got a call at work a few hours on the day of delivery saying that due to a vehicle problem my delivery had to be cancelled and rescheduled to Monday. This was annoying, but after a call I got it moved to Saturday evening. Ok, fine. Then Saturday evening came, they were late and the delivery was missing about 2-3 bags worth of shopping. After half an hour on the phone to customer service I was assured that I would get a call about redelivery soon… and we waited until noon the next day. We called up and told to phone back in an hour… then basically told it would probably be best to go for the refund.

Needless to say, not exactly a happy consumer. So after my 3 month delivery pass lapses I will be looking for another online food shopping provider. Probably Tesco. As for today’s food, a mix of Morrison’s and Tesco to the rescue!

Food Items: Cous cous, Halloumi, Pumpkin Seed Oil

Ah cous cous, so good they named it twice. I love how versitile it is and today we had ‘Moroccan-Style’ which involved sultanas and cumin. It was earthy and delicious, much like the pumpkin seed oil. I can’t quite believe now much it tastes like solid pumpkin seeds… I know it’s weird but I didn’t. It is also a very very dark green, a colour you only see if you have a very small amount of it. You don’t need a lot of it since it is quite a strong flavoured oil which is nice with lettuce or chard.

Halloumi is great because you can fry it or grill it and it doesn’t make a horrible molten mess in your pan. I know some people don’t like that there is a slight squeakiness when you bite into a slice of it but I love that, same with the saltiness of the cheese. Apparently there is a Finnish squeaky cheese on the list called Leipäjuusto which I am going to have to look out for if I am ever in Finland.

Food Item: Nashi Pear

I can not believe I found these in Morrisons. They look really quite odd for pears, which explains one of their other names: Apple pear. They also go by Asian Pear, Japanese Pear, Korean Pear and Sand Pear.

Now I am not the biggest fan of pears (I prefer apples) but these are the juiciest pears that I have ever had. I took a big bite and the amount of juice that was released meant I was just dribbling (not a great image). They are very sweet and very much like what would happen if you combined an apple with a good quality pear.

Progress: 67/500

Good Eatin’: A Fancy Finger Moustache Lunch

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food Items: Cherry Tomatoes, Sherry Vinegar, Manchego, Smoked Mackerel

This was one of the best lunched I had in ages. It felt so fancy that every time I refer to this I have to do a finger moustache and call it my fancy lunch. It started out because I am very well aware of the lack of fish that I have eaten so far. A trip to the Little Waitrose that opened in the high street (still stoked about that) meant we were able to find ourselves a nice packet of peppered smoked mackerel. It was then that I thought that we should have a fancy lunch!

So we smelt the cheeses , bought the fish and went across the high street to the local Morrisons to get the rest of the provisions for lunch. Including a loaf of date and walnut bread which my partner picked up (apparently since he remembered what I said about Manchego pairing well with fruit). We got home, I tossed the salad leaves in some sherry vinegar, sliced the Manchego as thinly as I could without removing my fingertips and the below is what we had:

The great thing about this lunch is how all the flavours really complimented each other. The buttery and understated Manchego worked well with the crisp, sweet explosion of the cherry tomatoes and the acidic (yet sweet notes) of the sherry vinegar. I was a bit of a philistine and turned my plate into a big open faced sandwich (where the smokiness and meatiness of the fish co-dominated with the sherry vinegar) and consumed very quickly. We ended up having enough left over that we had exactly the same for dinner and we were more than happy to do so.

Food Item: Single-Estate Chocolate

I have been curious with the idea of Single-Estate chocolate since first reading about it in the book. The idea is to create connoisseurs for chocolate in the same way we exist for wine. To qualify all the beans used in the chocolate have to come from the same plantation. As such we had a limited selection in the Little Waitrose and settled on the Indonesian Gold since it sounded the most delicious based on the box.

Being 69% dark this was dark, rich and really lingered on the pallate (trying to use wine lingo here, how am I doing?). There was an immediate burnt sugar(almost treacle) taste that melted away as the chocolate melted to give a far more subtle note which, like the package says, resembles caramel. But I would still go for burnt caramel rather than regular caramel you find in a Mars bar. Yes it was nice but I’m happier chomping on milk chocolate (now to find some single estate milk chocolate).

Progress: 63/500

Good Eatin’: Some Odds and Ends

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Like with my previous post regarding snacks this food update is a bit of a hodge-podge of a number of different meals I have had over the last month since it’s hard to include multiple food list entrants in one meal unless you try hard or are doing it to try and cross a number of them off.

Food Item: Chimichurri

God bless Tesco and their incredibly wide-ranging Ingredients range. I’ve made my own chimichurri sauce before but since the recipes for this Argentine sauce are so wide ranging I figured I’d go premade for this list and maybe make my own some other time.

In this case it was used on a steak sandwich and it was a delicious blend of herbs (coriander leaf and parsley being the more obvious ones in this incarnation) and an underlying piquancy due to the presence of garlic and some red chilli.

Later that week I minced some chimichurri and lime juice into chicken to make burgers and they tasted very much like something I had in a Thai restaurant many years ago. Goes to show it isn’t just for manly steak sandwiches.

Food Item: (English) Muffin

I have never been able to poach an egg. My mum has never been able to poach an egg. For the above Eggs Benedict she learnt how to and it was the best version of the dish I had ever had. The eggs were perfect and the Hollandaise sauce we got from Borough Market is possibly the best Hollandaise sauce I had ever had.

I love muffins (and they are not English muffins, just muffins). I think they are among the lesser appreciate English breakfast breads since they have become synonymous with the (gorgeous) McMuffins. But who cares, they are bready and that odd place where airy and stodgey are able to meet. They are also delicious with Marmite and cheese.

Food Item: Coconut Milk

This was a bit of a happy accident since we bought a Satay Sauce packet and on the way to the checkout I saw we needed to get some coconut milk for this. Now I know that Light Coconut Milk is an option but… it congeals and separates as it cooks and it makes food look a bit rank unless you heat it just right. Still tastes fine… just not as good as full fat (unlike the situation with mayonnaise where I prefer the taste of reduced fat).

Progress: 58/500

Good Eatin’: £7 Sausages

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food Items: Frozen Peas, Kecap, Basmati Rice, Chinese Sausage

Okay, I can’t quite believe that I spent £7 on Chinese Sausage but I used this as an opportunity to get myself a Fortune Cat loyalty card so hopefully this will be something I can reap the benefits of in the future since it’s where I prefer to buy my soy sauce and my Kecap Manis (something I was so happy to find in a large bottle that I danced a merry jig in the store). If you have never had Kecap Manis before (I only tried it because of the Indo-Dutch connection) then I guess the best way to describe it would be as a sweet soy sauce.

So what did I do with the following items? Chinese sausage fried rice of course! So delicious I had it the next day for breakfast!

Ingredients (3 servings as a main dish):

  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 4 cups pre-cooked basmati rice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 chinese sausages, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • a dash of rice wine vinegar
Heat half the oil in a wok over a high heat (I would say flame but I have a ceramic hob) and fry the eggs in it until they make a neat circular omelette (don’t touch it too much as it cooks or they will scramble). Remove from the heat for later.
Add the rest of the oil followed by the ginger, garlic, celery and frozen peas. Stir-fry this for 2-3 minutes before adding the sausages and the spring onions. Since these are partially-cooked you only need to fry them for a minute or two. Add the rice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and stir-fry until the rice is completely warm-hot throughout. Stir in the egg and consume happily.
The sausages were an odd taste and not what I expected, whilst they were meaty and smoky there was a sweetness to them that you don’t find in your bog-standard sausages. The way that the fat in them had melted meant the whole dish had their taste distributed throughout. If I were to make this again I would probably go for a different rice since, as much as I love the nutty taste it has, it did not really suit this dish.
So where was the kecap in all this? Lashings of it were drizzled over the rice and I was very happy.
Progress: 55/500

Good Eatin’: Rainbow Fish Time!

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

I may have forgotten that a sizeable section of the list is made up of fish. It’s not that I dislike fish (although I am still not entirely won over by crustaceans on the whole) but a lot of these on the list are either hard to find or expensive or both. In fact, I am going to have to make a better effort to check fish counters and offers to see if I can snag a few more fishy entries on the list.

So today, I actively looked for a fish that was in the ASDA 3 for £10 meat & fish offer and ended up with today’s main focus.

Food Items: Rainbow Trout, Dill, Snow Peas

I won’t post the recipe here because I pretty much copied it word for word from the BBC website since I have always wanted to cook fish in the fancy ‘make a tent out of foil’ way and this gave me the opportune chance.

Now I was never fond of the almost aniseedy taste of dill when I was a child but, like with most foods it was something that I managed to get used to as I got older. The real revelation in this dish was just how much like salmon the rainbow trout tasted.

This is a recipe I will be trying again if I have the chance to get rainbow trout in such an offer again… although after recent issues with ASDA (I’ll talk more about this in a future post) I am not sure that will be any time soon.

Food Item: Chocolate Chip Cookie

My partner was ill today and he got himself some cookies to cheer himself up… I’m glad he did since chocolate chip cookies are never an unwanted dessert.

Progress: 51/500